Wedding Music Basics
The most basic ceremony musical setup involves a minimum of three types of songs: preludes, processionals, and recessionals. Prelude music is light, ambient music that sets the mood while guests are being seated and waiting for the ceremony to begin. It usually begins when the doors open, or as early as 45 minutes prior to but no later than 20 minutes before the beginning of the ceremony.
Next is the processional, which accompanies the entry of the extended wedding party -- family, bridal party, and bride. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the recessional plays. As the name implies, this music accompanies you as you recess (that is, make your exit) and is traditionally bright and lively -- a reflection of your joy. : The most traditional musical instrument for wedding ceremonies is the organ. But guitars, pianos, flutes, harps and violins are also popular today.
Many couples choose to add interludes or songs played during significant moments such as the unity candle lighting or the ketubah signing. You might also want to include a postlude, which is a selection played while guests exit the ceremony. Have someone play a violin, or even a set of bagpipes, as guests head toward the exit. Some couples even ask the musician to lead guests out of the ceremony space in a paradelike fashion.
The cocktail hour may or may not be an extension of your postlude, depending on how and where you have your reception set up in relation to your ceremony. If your guests have had to travel to a new location, you may want to change the style and genre of your music to reflect a more party-like atmosphere. You may want to choose background music that can be played as your guests mingle around the bar and cocktail area. Smooth jazz, instrumental versions of pop songs, string quartets playing classical pieces, or the band playing low-key jazz standards are all good choices for the cocktail hour.
The entrance of the bride and groom to the reception is really the first time that you will be introduced to your family and friends as husband and wife. This is a grand entrance, so choose music that fits the moment. There are numerous choices for classical music that will create a feeling of grandeur. For less formal and informal receptions, you may want to choose popular rock or R&B songs.
If you are serving a meal during the reception, you will want to decide what type of music to play while your guests dine. Follow the same rule of thumb that you would for the cocktail hour; in other words, background music that sets the mood for your reception. If you have hired a harpist or string quartet for your ceremony, consider having them perform throughout the dinner hour as well. Smooth Jazz, New Age, and Easy Listening are all good choices of music genres.